For the first time since 2002, Muirfield Golf Links in Gullane, Scotland, will host the 2013 Open Championship.
Nearly all of the world's top golfers will be in attendance at the third major championship of the season. That list will include both major championship winners (Adam Scott, Masters and Justin Rose, U.S. Open) from the 2013 season.
Not coincidentally, those two golfers are both inside the top five of the World Golf Rankings.
|WORLD GOLF RANKINGS (as of 7/15/13)|
|Rank||Golfer||Best Open Finish|
|1||Tiger Woods||1 (2000, 2005, 2006)|
|2||Rory McIlroy||T3 (2010)|
|3||Justin Rose||T4 (1998)|
|4||Adam Scott||2 (2012)|
|5||Phil Mickelson||T2 (2011)|
|6||Matt Kuchar||T9 (2012)|
|7||Graeme McDowell||T5 (2012)|
|8||Brandt Snedeker||T3 (2012)|
|9||Luke Donald||T5 (2009, 2012)|
|10||Steve Striker||T7 (2008)|
As you can see by this tweet from Golf Digest, Muirfield is really where it all began for the four-round format, which is now used in nearly all PGA Tour events:
Muirfield was the site of the 1892 Open, golf's first four-round tournament: http://t.co/3j6nVUpfxA— Golf Digest (@GolfDigestMag) July 15, 2013
Tournament officials added 158 yards to the course since 2002, but Muirfield's 18 holes will once again play with a 71 being good enough to finish each round at even par.
There have been five British Opens held at the links since 1972, but the final score of the champion has varied a bit in that span. Three winners finished six-under or worse during their victory, while the other two winners posted scores of 12- and 13-under in capturing a claret jug.
Over that five-tournament span, the overall score of the winner averages out to 275.6, which rounded up would be a score of eight under par for the week.
There isn't an exact science to predicting the scores of any golfer who will compete this week. Looking at previous appearances, 2013 performances and player tendencies, here's a brief prediction on what the top three golfers in the world will do this week in Scotland.
The last time Tiger Woods teed it up at Muirfield, his Saturday was a disaster.
As Alex Myers of Golf Digest posted in his look at some of the biggest letdowns every at a major championship, Woods had a terrible third round at the British Open in 2002.
After a solid start (68, 70 for three-under 138), Woods ran into trouble on Saturday. He produced an 81 in the third round at the 2002 Open Championship, still the worst score of his major career and the only time he's failed to crack an 80 in any round at a major.
Let's hope this time around will be more fortuitous for the No. 1 player in the world.
Coming into the British Open this year after a dreadful performance at the U.S. Open (T32), Woods is still looking for his first win at one of golf's big four events for the first time since 2008 (U.S. Open).
Although his performance at Merion left something to be desired, a silver lining of sorts could be that the last time Woods won the British Open, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open the week before. Motivated to avenge a disappointing U.S. Open and major drought could weigh heavy on Tiger's mind during his week in Scotland.
As noted in this tweet from Sky Sports, Woods drew a pairing of World No. 7 Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen during his first two rounds at Muirfield this year:
Tiger Woods has been drawn to play alongside Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen at the Open at Muirfield - http://t.co/fEy93davP3— Sky Sports (@SkySports) July 15, 2013
Woods had reportedly been dealing with an elbow injury heading into the 142nd British Open. However, as Steve DiMeglio of USA Today reported on Sunday, Woods was quoted as saying the elbow is "fine," for the upcoming week and that the reason he took an extended break in competition was to let it fully heal.
The last round Woods recorded at Muirfield in 2002 was a final-round 65, but even a six-under score couldn't put him back into contention that year after his abysmal third round.
Looking at the conditions for the week and the way Woods has played overall in a strong 2013 season, he should remain in contention for most of the week and be in the mix for his 15th major championship win on Sunday.
Woods Projection: 68-72-66-69 (275, -9)
It's been an up-and-down season for the No. 2 player in the world, and if Rory McIlroy isn't careful, he could start sliding down the World Golf Rankings in the near future.
He missed the cut at the 2013 Irish Open at the end of June, and his eighth-place finish at the 2013 Players Championship in May seems like ages ago after disappointing showings in the Memorial and U.S. Open.
Which McIlroy shows up this week at Muirfield?
If there's a question that's been asked more on the PGA Tour this year, someone kindly point it out to me in the comment section below.
He's showed flashes of the player that is a two-time major championship winner during the 2013 season, finishing second at the Texas Open in April and posting two other top-10 finishes at the Players and Wells Fargo Championship.
On the flip side, McIlroy has been strikingly bad at times, too.
So far, he has missed all three 2013 cuts on the European Tour. In the third round of his last two majors, McIlroy posted a 79 (Masters) and 75 (U.S. Open). At 70.265 per round, McIlroy is just 25th on the PGA Tour in scoring average per round.
NBC analyst Johnny Miller blames love as the reason for McIlroy's inconsistencies on the Tour this year. McIlroy is currently dating tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and Sky Sports Golf caught her cheering on her man at The Masters in April:
Gerry McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki are out watching Rory today. Not much to cheer so far with Rory at +2 after 7. pic.twitter.com/KH0EHDuj0D— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) April 12, 2013
Miller also mentions McIlroy's sudden shift in clubs as a potential culprit for this year's struggles in an interview with Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle, calling the 24-year-old a "bit of a mess" in the process.
All indications point to more of the same from McIlroy. Until he proves otherwise, expect one solid round and three other confusing ones in his third major of the year.
McIlroy Projection: 70-73-68-72 (283, -1)
Since World War II, only Ben Hogan (1953), Lee Trevino (1971), Tom Watson (1982) and Tiger Woods (2000) have won the U.S. Open prior to winning the British Open the same year.
Justin Rose is your 2013 U.S. Open champion, but he faces a steep uphill climb to become the fourth man mentioned in the same breath as those listed above.
That being said, Rose certainly has the chops to get the job done.
As noted by Ewan Murray of The Guardian, Rose has the support of the locals on his side. Just like Andy Murray at Wimbledon, Rose is looking to break a serious drought to become the first Englishman to win the local event since Nick Faldo in 1992.
But Rose hasn't finished in the top 10 at the Open Championship since his legendary tied-for-fourth finish as an amateur in 1998. He's played 10 times at the tournament since then, but has failed to finish higher than 12th (2007) since breaking through as a young golfer.
Which star will have the best 2013 British Open experience?
Among those trips in futility was Muirfield in 2002, when Rose finished tied for 22nd.
While the momentum of the U.S. Open will be a major boost for the 32-year-old as he attempts to pull off the rare two-major sweep, history at this event does not bode well for his chances.
With seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, Rose has been the model for consistency for most of the 2013 season. I doubt he fades from contention, but at this point, I don't see Rose as one of the leaders after three days in Scotland.
Rose Projection: 69-71-71-67 (278, -6)
*Stats via PGATour.com.
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